Apparently it’s a time for healing — a time to forget past grievances, bad decisions and questionable morality. A time to move forward rather than remain obsessed with previous mistakes or corrupt actions.
We’re talking about the recent managerial hirings of Alex Cora and AJ Hinch, of course — breathe easy, you’re in a politics-free zone here — that now serve as a referendum on baseball’s true feelings regarding the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.
Do the time, say you’re sorry and the stain seemingly is lifted. Second chances have never come so easily.
Cora was rehired by the Red Sox on Friday only 10 months after they fired him (ahem, parted ways), having served a one-season suspension that turned out to be only 60 miserable games for a terrible Boston team.
Based on what Cora’s replacement, Ron Roenicke, had to endure this year after the salary-dump trade of Mookie Betts and David Price, it’s almost as if the Red Sox did their disgraced former manager a favor. Let Roenicke get smeared by the ugly cost-cutting rebuild, then bring back the rejuvenated, remorseful Cora.
"Alex knows what he did was wrong, and he regrets it," Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said Friday in a statement. "My belief is that every candidate should be considered in full: strengths and weaknesses, accomplishments and failures."
The first thing I thought of when Cora was reintroduced during the news-dumpiest Friday on record was the future of Carlos Beltran, the only Astro mentioned by name in the commissioner’s investigation who was not suspended. He lost his job with the Mets anyway before managing a game.
General manager Jeff Luhnow (still available), then-manager Hinch (who was hired to manage the Tigers late last month) and former bench coach Cora were suspended for the 2020 season because of the fact that they weren’t players, who were given amnesty in exchange for their cooperation. Beltran, however, was a player on the cheating 2017 champs. Rob Manfred did him dirty in the report, which essentially forced the Mets to ax him.
As I wrote in January, the Mets really had no choice but to let Beltran go once Manfred lined him up in the crosshairs. Cora at least was coming off a World Series title in Boston. Beltran, other than his All-Star stint with the Mets, had no managerial currency built up in Flushing. His return made for a nice homecoming, but with that soiled, the Mets had to make a clean break.
Nearly a year later, after the forgive-and-forget tours of Cora and Hinch, it’s safe to say that Beltran deserves his second chance, too.
We know that Beltran has been painted in some circles as the true ringleader of the Houston conspiracy, but it’s just a matter of degrees. Everyone on the Astros was complicit, and Beltran shouldn’t have to be the forever fall guy for the whole cheating operation.
That said, it also doesn’t mean Beltran needs to be reinstalled as a manager right away. The Mets hired him despite zero experience and they were his first choice, in part because he wanted a job in New York, where his family was based.
Maybe it makes more sense for Beltran to work his way back in some coaching capacity before getting another shot as a manager. Eventually having that chance with the Mets wouldn’t be the worst idea, with the Wilpons gone and Sandy Alderson as the new president.
It’s a risky gamble PR-wise, but everyone loves a good comeback story. And cheating doesn’t seem to be quite the crime it was only last winter. Not to the Red Sox and Tigers, anyway, as long as you can roll out a convincing mea culpa.
"This past year, I have had time to reflect and evaluate many things, and I recognize how fortunate I am to lead this team once again," Cora said Friday in a statement. "Not being a part of the game of baseball and the pain of bringing negative attention to my family and this organization was extremely difficult. I am sorry for the harm my past actions have caused and will work hard to make this organization and its fans proud."
That’s some hand sanitizer for the soul right there. In baseball’s view, that’s all it takes these days. And with all this forgiveness going on — not to mention the Astros keeping that tainted World Series trophy — Beltran should get his chance at the plate again. Never suspended, but he still did the time. His debt needs to be considered paid, too.
Dodging discipline, if not coronavirus
MLB’s elaborate excuse-making for Justin Turner’s reckless behavior after the Dodgers’ World Series Game 6 clincher came down to one thing: The season was over.
So what if Turner — pulled after seven innings as a late COVID-19 positive — returned to the field to celebrate with teammates, even shedding his mask for a group photo. MLB had made it to the finish line. The playoff games went off without a hitch, the TV partners had their programming, and everyone got their money. Mission accomplished, right?
If this had been August or September and Turner had endangered the completion of the schedule, it would have been a much different story. But other people’s health? Didn’t seem to be much of a priority in this case.
According to MLB’s investigation, it was found that Turner was "actively encouraged" by his teammates to return to the field from isolation because they felt they already had been exposed to him. Plus there was a "miscommunication" about receiving permission from a Dodgers employee, and he apparently was told that other Dodgers had tested positive, making him feel as if he had been wrongly "singled out" for isolation.
Sketchy stuff. But that was the official explanation.
"I will not make excuses for my conduct, but I will describe my state of mind," Turner said Friday in a statement. "Winning the World Series was my lifelong dream and the culmination of everything I worked for in my career. After waiting in the isolation room while my teammates celebrated on the field, I asked whether I was permitted to return to the field with my wife in order to take a photograph. I assumed by that point that few people were left on the field. I was under the impression that team officials did not object to my returning to the field for a picture with my wife.
"However, what was intended to be a photo capturing the two of us turned into several greetings and photos where I briefly and unwisely removed my mask. In hindsight, I should have waited until the field was clear of others to take that photo with my wife. I sincerely apologize to everyone on the field for failing to appreciate the risks of returning to the field. I have spoken with almost every teammate, coach and staff member, and my intentions were never to make anyone uncomfortable or put anyone at further risk."
Turner also said he was "blindsided" by the positive test and that it was an emotional night.
All of that is understandable. He grew up a Dodgers fan and waited his entire career to win a World Series. But there were serious consequences to his behavior — ones that we’re all mindful of in our daily lives — and the pandemic is only becoming a bigger problem.
The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that five members of the Dodgers’ organization plus another family member also have tested positive for COVID-19, but they were outside the team’s bubble in Arlington, so it’s unclear how they were infected.
MLB has not provided any official updates on teams. The season is over and its monitoring program has stopped.
As for Turner, Manfred sounded satisfied that he "expressed remorse" and was "extraordinarily upset by the incident." Turner’s apology wouldn’t be worth much to anyone who wound up infected by him, but it was enough to escape any punishment.
"We all have made mistakes as we navigated these unprecedented challenges and have tried to learn from those mistakes so they are not repeated," Manfred said in Friday’s statement. "With this in mind, I am closing this matter by applauding Justin for accepting responsibility, apologizing and making a commitment to set a positive example going forward."
Manfred had better keep his fingers crossed about additional infections, too.